Friday, May 16, 2008

Yom Ha'atzmaut and the Nakbah

يوم النكبة Yawm Al-nakba (The Catastrophe Day) and ום העצמאות Yom Ha'atzmaut (The Independence Day) occur on May 14 each year. But this year is special as it is the 60th anniversary of the events of May 14, 1948 which the Israelis celebrate as their independence day and the Palestinians recall the horrors of massacres of Palestinians and expulsions from their homes in what is now the state of Israel.

For a long time, the Israeli textbooks have either not mentioned or completely denied any violence and forced expulsions of Palestinians by Israelis. This is beginning to change. In July of 2007, the Israeli Education Ministry agreed to approve a text book for use in the state's Arab schools that for the first time describes Israel's 1948 war of independence as a "catastrophe" for the Palestinian population. However, it balances it by also including the Jewish narrative of the establishment of the state, including that the Arab parties rejected the United Nations' 1947 partition plan for Palestine while the Jews were willing to accept it.

For many decades since 1948, the Israeli narrative in the history textbooks and the media have claimed that the Palestinians had simply abandoned their country, not fought hard enough for it and left for friendly Arab countries. The narrative conveniently defined the Palestinians as ignorant and cowardly. But since the opening of the Israeli archives in the past decade, that myth has been destroyed by a younger generation of Israeli historians - Avi Shlaim, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev and others - who have argued that the period from December 1947 to May 1948 involved a series of massacres designed to terrorize the native population into abandoning their homes and fleeing to safety.

In addition to faulty history, the Israeli textbooks also mislead Israeli students by showing Israel's territorial conquests in the 1967 war - the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - as part of Israel. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that international law deems them occupied land that Israel has illegally settled.

On the 60th anniversary, Israel demanded that the UN strike the word "Nakba" from its lexicon after an official statement released by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made specific reference to the Al-Nakba marking the 60th anniversary of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their lands with Israel's inception in 1948. Israeli Radio quoted a Ban spokesperson as saying the secretary-general "phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stress his support for the Palestinian people on Nakba Day." Danny Carmon, Israel's deputy ambassador to the UN, told the radio that the term "Nakba is a tool of Arab propaganda used to undermine the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it must not be part of the lexicon of the UN."

Benny Morris is considered one of the most important Israeli historians of the 1948 war. From his first book 20 years ago, Morris has documented Israeli atrocities and the expulsion of the Palestinians. He was considered part of a group of so-called ‘revisionist’ historians who challenged conventional Israeli thinking about 1948. However, unlike his critics to the left, Morris did not consider the expulsions to be part of a systematic Israeli policy of transfer.

Though there were many reports of the massacres of the Palestinians by the Jewish settlers in 1947 and 1948, the horrors of Dir Yassin are well documented. It was the killing of between 107 and 120 villagers, the estimate generally accepted by scholars, during and possibly after the battle at the village of Dir Yassin near Jerusalem in the British Mandate of Palestine by Jewish irregular forces between April 9 and April 11, 1948. It occurred while Yishuv forces consisting of the Jewish settlers in Palestine, fought to break the siege of Jerusalem during the period of civil war that preceded the end of the Mandate.

Contemporary reports, originating apparently from a commanding officer in Jerusalem of one of the irregular forces involved (the Irgun, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Menachem Begin, who later became Israel's prime minister), Mordechai Ra'anan, gave an initial estimate of 254 killed. The size of the figure had a considerable impact on the conflict in creating panic and became one of the major causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus.

The Dir Yassin incident was universally condemned at the time, including repudiations from the Haganah command and the Jewish Agency. The Haganah were the Jewish paramilitaries in Palestine that later became the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Instead of recognizing each others' great suffering, the Israelis and the Palestinians have often engaged in either denying or belittling each others suffering. Many Palestinians deny or belittle the Holocaust and many Israelis reject the Nakba. And both continue to suffer, though some might justifiably argue that the Palestinians have suffered much more than the Israelis in the last several decades. In the words of former US President Bill Clinton, the Palestinians have been "dispossessed and dispersed". Mr. Clinton was referring to the dispossession of 78 per cent of the land of the Palestinians, an event that saw 700,000 of them (most of the population) driven out of historic Palestine. Israel vehemently opposes the return of those driven out and their children under any proposed peace settlement.

While many nations including Australia and the United States are attempting to correct their narratives and come to terms with the historic injustices against the natives in their lands, most Israelis continue to deny the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians.

And both the Palestinians and the Israelis have continued to undermine mutual trust and further exacerbate the situation: Israel by insisting on Israeli settlement expansions and by building walls of separation and both parties by perpetuating a cycle of violence by recklessly (even deliberately) attacking each others' civilians.

The United States remains the only country in the world with significant leverage on both sides of the ongoing violence. But the US has not exercised that leverage wisely in the last seven years of the Bush administration, with the US foreign policy held hostage by the neo-cons, the right-wing Israeli lobby and the far right evangelical Christians. Unless the next US administration begins to play a serious and patient mediation role as an honest broker, the chances of peace will remain elusive. And both the Israelis and the Palestinians will continue to suffer.

Sources: Wikipedia
Sydney Morning Herald
Democracy Now!
Reliable Media Reports

UPDATE: A video presentation by Miko Peled, author of the General's Son:


Riaz Haq said...

President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday offered the job of White House chief of staff to Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who reportedly accepted the offer.

This is Obama's first and most important appointment.

The White House Chief of Staff is an extremely powerful position, setting the agenda and controlling access to the president.

According to a report in Jerusalem Post, Emanuel is the Chicago-born son of former Israelis.

The 48-year-old Emanuel is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community of Chicago and grew up speaking Hebrew with his father, a pediatrician who was a member of Irgun, the Jewish resistance in Palestine that committed acts of terror and atrocities against the Palestinians to drive them out in 1948.

During the Gulf War in 1991, Emanuel came to Israel to serve as a civilian volunteer.

Emanuel was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton during his term in the White House and was first elected to Congress in 2002.

Emanuel was named the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Mother Jones on Israeli documentary "The Gatekeepers":

The Oscar-nominated documentary, directed by Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh, uses interviews with all six living ex-directors of the Shin Bet to paint a stark portrait of the agency and how it figures into the Jewish state's past, present, and future. For those who haven't heard of this security service, here are a couple lines from my crib sheet: Imagine the FBI, only tremendously more efficient, brutal, and terrifying. Now, imagine if the war on terror were half a century old, and if we had drone strikes and black sites in Florida and Montana.

That's what the Shin Bet is like for Israelis.

It's a juggernaut of counterterrorism and intel gathering. Shin Bet directors answer directly to the prime minister. The agency's greatest blunder was their failure to protect Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader who came closest to making peace with the Palestinians, from being murdered by a right-wing Israeli terrorist.
Here are six examples of things said in the film that could get you pilloried in American politics:

1. "Talk to everyone, even if they answer rudely. So that includes even Ahmadinejad, [Islamic Jihad, Hamas], whoever. I'm always for it. In the State of Israel, it's too great a luxury not to speak with our enemies…Even if [the] response is insolent, I'm in favor of continuing. There is no alternative. It's in the nature of the professional intelligence man to talk to everyone. That's how you get to the bottom of things. I find out that he doesn't eat glass and he sees that I don't drink oil."—Avraham Shalom (1980-86), on negotiating with the enemy.

2. "We are making the lives of millions [of Palestinians] unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, [and] it kills me."—Carmi Gillon (1994-96).

3. "We've become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population." Our army has become "a brutal occupation force, similar to the Germans in World War II. Similar, not identical."—Shalom, who clarifies that he is referring to the Nazis' persecution of non-Jewish minorities.

4. "We don't realize that we face a frustrating situation in which we win every battle, but we lose the war."—Ami Ayalon (1996–2000), regarding the wisdom of Israel's counterterrorism measures.

5. "To them, I was the terrorist.… One man's terrorist is another man freedom fighter."—Yuval Diskin (2005-11), candidly discussing the very first time he considered his profession from a Palestinian perspective.

6. "We are taking very sure and measured steps to a point where the State of Israel will not be a democracy or a home for the Jewish people."—Ayalon

But the film's contribution to any political discussion on the topic goes way beyond its quotable shock value. It's the culmination of a personal saga for these six warriors, packaged in one raw, brilliantly paced film with stunning visuals. "After retiring from this job, you become a bit of a leftist," Yaakov Peri, who ran the Shin Bet during the First Intifada, says with a sad smirk. The narrative unfolds as a modern tragedy where the characters' career highs are forever marred by a sense that they've retired only to become Cassandras. And for all their tactical successes on the battlefield, they see an Israel poised to lose the war if it continues to give up on peace.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed for GeoTV by Ansar Abbasi on Punjab textbook changes:

The Punjab government has excluded several key subjects from the fresh 10th class Urdu text book edition published in February 2013 which is now being marketed for new students of matric.

These subjects include ‘Islamic ideology of Pakistan’ and ‘Hazrat Umar (RA)- a Great Administrator’ besides removing persuasive Islam-related poems of even poets like Allama Iqbal. On the poetry side, all the Islamic poems including ‘Rabbe Kainaat’ of Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, ‘Mohsin-e-Insaniat (PBUH)’ (the Saviour of Humanity) by Mahirul Qadri, ‘Tulu-e-Islam’ (the rise of Islam) of Allama Iqbal, ‘Siddiq (RA)’ on Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq (RA) by Allama Iqbal, ‘Shaan-e-Taqwa’ (which is against drinking) by Allama Iqbal etc have also been removed in the new text book.

While the title page of the book contains the picture of Allama Iqbal, it does not contain any poem of the great poet of Islam and Pakistan.

The new edition of the ‘Urdu compulsory for 10th class’ does not include the very first chapter of the earlier edition’s prose i.e ‘Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA)- a great administrator’ by Allama Shibli Naumani. The new text book’s first chapter is an essay on writer ‘Mirza Muhammad Saeed’ written by Shahid Ahmad Dehlvi.

The second chapter in the old edition was on ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ written by Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan. This important chapter highlighted the basis for the creation of Pakistan and endorsed that the country was created in the name of Islam, to make it an Islamic state, has been replaced by a new chapter on ‘Princess of Paristan’ (Paristan ki shahzadi) written by Ashraf Saboohi.

The third chapter of the old edition of the 10th class text book was ‘Musaddas-e-Hali’ written by Moulvi Abdul Haq. This chapter narrates how a Muslim poet in the 19th century influenced the hearts and minds of the Muslims. It has now been replaced by a writing of Dr Waheed Qureshi on ‘Eidul Fitr in Urdu Literature’ (Urdu Adab main Eidul Fitr).

Similarly the chapters like ‘Sacrifice’ (Eisaar) by Deputy Nazir Ahmad, which has a great lesson for children, has been removed from the new 10th class text book. This chapter gives the lesson of how the affluent should help the poor. The story is about a child, who distributed his Eidi to a poor family.

Another important chapter of the old book ‘Fatima binte (daughter of) Abdullah’ written by Mirza Adeeb has also disappeared from the new Urdu compulsory of class 10 for Punjab students. This story was about a 10-year old daughter of an Arab leader Abdullah. The story is about Jihad and the young Muslim girl’s urge to help the Muslim Mujahideen in Jihad against un-Islamic forces. The girl was martyred and did her parents proud.

This incident has such an importance that even Allama Muhammad Iqbal had also written a poem on this young girl with the title ‘Fatima binte Abdullah’. Allama presented her as a role model for Muslim youth.

A chapter Nam Dev Mali was, instead, included in the book that was about an expert Hindu gardener who was killed when attacked and stung by honey bees. The writer of this short story Maulvi Abdul Haq described the death of the expert Hindu gardener as ‘having embraced Shahadat (martyrdom)’.

One of the chapters in the old edition was about ‘The deprived of inheritance’ (Mahroom-e-Virasat) by Allama Rashidul Khairi has also been excluded. This chapter focused on the un-Islamic tradition of depriving women of inheritance.

One chapter called ‘Travelling is the key to success’ (Safar Kamiabi ki Kunji hay) written by Moulana Abdul Haleem Sharar, a great Urdu writer, has also been removed. It covered the adventures, jihad, travelling etc of the great Muslim leaders.

A chapter on the ‘words of poets’ (Shaeron ki batain) in the old book has also been removed.

The chapter presented different aspects particularly self respect of Muslim poets.......

Riaz Haq said...

When discussing Israel we need to look at the root cause of the conflict - have a look at this video The Israeli General's Son – the video Israeli does NOT want you to see was made by the son of the general who lead the 73 Israeli offensive - and later turned against Israel's foreign policy

A real eye-opener, pass this around

Riaz Haq said...

The Nakba: an Israel Defense Forces intelligence report said "the displacement of about 70% of the Arabs" in 1948 "should be attributed to military operations carried out by Jewish forces, compared to only 5%...attributed to orders given by Arab leaders."

Glenn Kessler

At the time of the proposed U.N. partition, Jews comprised only 33 percent of the population, owned 7 percent of the land and yet would have been given 56 percent of the former mandate. There was no reason to accept such a deal. Then when the state of Israel was declared, Jewish forces forced many Palestinian families from their homes. This is documented in a 1948 Israel Defense Forces intelligence report, which said the displacement of about 70 percent of the Arabs during this time should be attributed to military operations carried out by Jewish forces, compared to only 5 percent which could be attributed to orders given by Arab leaders.

Riaz Haq said...

An Israeli minister (Gila Gamliel) reveals one rationale for destroying so much of Gaza. By rendering large parts of it inhabitable, Israel can "promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip."

One of the issues on which my office has been working diligently is how to proceed the day after Hamas has been defeated and annihilated.

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”

The State of Israel is in the midst of one of its greatest crises, certainly for at least two generations.
More than 1,200 of our people were viciously murdered, 239 brutally kidnapped, thousands more injured, and 240,000 made homeless by the Nazi-like regime in Gaza.
Women were raped. The elderly were abused and taken hostage. Children were beheaded. Families were tortured in front of each other for the entertainment of their captors before being burned alive while bound to each other.These inhuman atrocities changed everything.

It is clear that much has to change, as many conceptions were proven wrong on the day of the pogrom on October 7.

What should be just as clear is that many more conceptions must be addressed, challenged, and possibly destroyed in the weeks and months ahead.
One of the issues on which my office has been working diligently is how to proceed the day after Hamas has been defeated and annihilated.
We will still have around two million people in Gaza, many of whom voted for Hamas and celebrated the massacre of innocent men, women, and children.

Gaza is a breeding ground for extremism. It is a small area, by no means the most populated on earth, but one where for too long, its rulers have prioritized war against the Jews over a better life for their people.
It is a place devoid of hope, stolen by the genocidal terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.
This situation has already led to a large exodus of youths from Gaza. It has been estimated that since Hamas violently took over the Strip in 2007, between 250,000 and 350,000 mostly young adults have left Gaza to make a new life abroad.

As we consider our options for the day after, the international community appears to be pushing to bring the Palestinian Authority back to rule Gaza. This has obvious structural flaws, as it was tried in 2005 after the disaster of the Disengagement when all 8,600 Jewish residents were forcibly evicted from the Gaza Strip. It took only two years for Hamas to seize power, largely by throwing PA leaders off high roofs.
Furthermore, as we are witnessing at this very moment, the PA does not have a markedly different ideology from Hamas. Recently, for example, the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs distributed instructions to preachers in mosques throughout Judea and Samaria to deliver a teaching about the requirement to kill Jews and the wider goal to exterminate all Jews.
So, this option – bringing the PA back to rule Gaza – has failed in the past and will fail again. It is an option that is seen as illegitimate by the Israeli public and one that would put us back to square one within a short amount of time.

Other options for Gaza's future
ANOTHER OPTION is to promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip.

It is important that those who seek a life elsewhere be provided with that opportunity. Some world leaders are already discussing a worldwide refugee resettlement scheme and saying they would welcome Gazans to their countries. This could be supported by many nations around the world, especially those that claim to be friends of the Palestinians.
This is an opportunity for those who say they support the Palestinian people to show these are not just empty words.